Monday, October 16, 2006

Observer consciousness and feelings

Feelings and emotions are the occasion for suffering only when we lose mindfulness about them. It's amazing how simply observing a feeling can keep it from taking us hostage. This principle is discussed by Nyanaponika Mahathera in an articla called "Contemplation of Feelings":
Mindfulness should be maintained throughout the short duration of a specific feeling, down to its cessation. If the vanishing point of feelings is repeatedly seen with increasing clarity, it will become much easier to forestall the emotions, thoughts and volitions which normally follow them so rapidly and so often become habitually associated with them. Pleasant feeling is habitually linked with enjoyment and desire; unpleasant feeling with aversion; neutral feeling with boredom and confusion, and also serving as a background for wrong views. But when bare attention is directed towards the arising and vanishing of feelings, these polluting additives will be held at bay. If they do arise, they will be immediately recognized as soon as they appear, and that recognition may often be sufficient to stop them from growing stronger by unopposed continuance.

If feelings are seen blowing up and bursting like bubbles, their linkage with craving and aversion will be weakened more and more until it is finally broken. As attachments to likes and dislikes are reduced by this practice, an inner space will open up for the growth of the finer emotions and virtues: for loving-kindness and compassion, for contentment, patience and forbearance.
The image of feelings expanding and then bursting like bubbles is a reminder of their impermanence. Remembering impermanence will help us practice distress tolerance when we experience painful feelings and then wait patiently for them to dissolve.

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